Birding in Suriname - by Otte Ottema
BIRD WATCHING IN THE BROWNSBERG NATURE PARK
The Brownsberg is a laterite plateau with an altitude of 450-500 meters, which used to be connected with other plateaus like the Nassau and Lily mountains. Rivers have eroded the land in between, and the three mountains are the remnants of the much larger laterite crust. The plateau and the slopes are covered with pristine rainforest, which is in some places very low and dense and in others high and open. Gold mining in the beginning of the 20th century has turned some creeks into high waterfalls, which form a great attraction for many visitors. In several places, you will have marvelous views from the plateau over the rainforest on the slopes. The Mazaronitop offers views in three directions. It is near the lodges and can be reached after a ten-minute hike. Here we have a good chance of seeing the canopy birds like Blood-red Tanager, Tropical Parula and Blue-backed Tanager.
The plateau is the best place for bird watching. We can walk on the broad roads near the lodges or take the ‘Mazaroniweg’. These roads offer a good view into the canopy. We will encounter many species of Antbirds. It is likely that we will hear the beautiful song of the Musician Wren, and there is a good chance of hearing forest falcons in the early morning. Interesting species which have been sighted quite regularly are Guianan Red Cotinga, Red-and-black Grosbeak, Ringed Woodpecker, White-throated Pewee, Collared and Black-tailed Trogon and White-throated and White-fronted Manakins. From October until March there is a good chance of hearing the White Bellbird. The rare and spectacular Band-tailed Antshrike has been seen often in the past, but has not been seen for several years now. Recently a lek of the Sharpbill has been found. We do not know yet the total period when the birds are active, but in February and March several can be heard singing. Seing is possible but difficult. The park is without doubt the best place to find Grey-winged Trumpeters.
When the ‘Pommerak’ and ‘Walaba’ trees near the lodges flower, we can see more than 10 species of hummingbirds. When the Pommerak has ripe fruit, Guyanan Toucanets and Green Araçari’s will fly five meters above your head. When the fruit of the Clusia near the Tapir viewpoint is ripe, honey-creepers, tanagers and woodpeckers can be spotted at very close range. An Ornate Hawk-eagle has become tame and has been seen catching lizards on the ground next to people. A complete species list for the park can be found at http://www1.nhl.nl/~ribot/english/ .
Tonka Island is situated on the east side of the foot of the Brownsberg in the hydro-electric Brokopondolake. Formerly it was the top of a hill. It can only be reached by boat. The boattrip starts at the lake site in Brownsweg and takes about half an hour. The island is covered with pristine rainforest, surrounded with a beach of laterite pebbels. White-eyed parakeets breed in the dead tree tops surrounding the island. Three very interesting species of birds which occur here are the Capuchinbird, the Rufescent Tiger Heron and the Sunbittern. The Capuchinbird with its strange froglike song is very common. The two other species can be seen after a 15 minute-walk along the shore with a bit of luck.
[photos] Ringed Woodpecker, Guianan Red Cotinga and Grey-winged Trumpeter, all taken by Candi McManiman.
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